what is shaping my view of the world.4

what is shaping my view of the world.4

1. This commercial for an Australian university had my in tears. It is a a great example of finding that story in a sea of many that is going to connect with a wider audience. The tears began on second one and the floodgates opened at 1:14. 

2. My brilliant friend Kalsoom wrote a beautiful piece about redefining success of for 2016. " I I learned anything in 2015, it was that I will fail if I worry about the things that really, really don't matter." 

3. Project Runway Youth is so so so good. The runway of episode one was jaw dropping. Their talent is insane, but I love the incredible support network (all the positive screams and bear hugs) they provide for each other. The show demonstrates the power of shine theory and that your biggest threat is yourself and your ego, not others. 


Links to articles, podcasts, videos, etc that get me all sorts of riled up inside; riled up with passion, excitement for life, questioning our world, and in general just makes me think harder about who I want to be, what I want to do, and what is the world I want to be a part of. 

what is shaping my view of the world.3

1. Stacey Patton's response to an editor who asked to write about the Tamir Rice's decision

2. Brazilian rapper and darling Karol Conka's TOMBEI

3. How the @theshaderoom is ruffling feathers in traditional gossip media and thriving as a legit business via @buzzfeed. Good lessons on the new wave of social media marketing 

4. Best book covers of 2015 aka  #designporn


Links to articles, podcasts, videos, etc that get me all sorts of riled up inside; riled up with passion, excitement for life, questioning our world, and in general just makes me think harder about who I want to be, what I want to do, and what is the world I want to be a part of. 

what is shaping my view of the world.2

"Right now, all sorts of people are trying to rethink and reinvent education, to get poor minority kids performing as well as white kids. But there's one thing nobody tries anymore, despite lots of evidence that it works: desegregation. Nikole Hannah-Jones looks at a district that, not long ago, accidentally launched a desegregation program." Did you know schools are more segregated now than ever in our country? This American Life has a two part series (one and two) that is a fascinating look into the modern educational system of our country. Lots of heroes in this story. 

A lesson on how not to manage your employees and when company culture breeds distrust between colleagues. Based on this recent New York Times article, Amazon sounds like hell to work at

@Nineteenfiftyone is one of my favorite Instagrammers and storytellers of all time. Kathryn works for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and has worked in refugee camps in Sudan, Syria, Liberia and beyond. She led a digital photography and storytelling class for teenage Sudanese refugees, allowing them to document and communicate their own stories. This video she recorded of children in a refugee camp in Niger is one I have come back to over and over in the past year. The simple recording of a teacher and her young students, the fate of the teacher and her students, stirs an emotion so deep inside of me that I can only say thank you. She is one of the best storytellers of our generation. Hands down.  

what is shaping my view of the world.1

Last time I wrote a blog post was over a year ago and it was for my international development work. I miss the pen and I figure this blog is resilient enough to survive another major transition. El Camino Travel is now my full time job and I have ceased the consulting gigs. You can head over to that blog and find some posts that I have recently written about our company, the business side, and the travels. In the meantime, I am going to post more regularly a few daily links to articles, podcasts, videos, etc that get me all sorts of riled up inside; riled up with passion, excitement for life, questioning our world, and in general just makes me think harder about who I want to be, what I want to do, and what is the world I want to be a part of. 

what is shaping my view of the world.

Mary Kate and Ashley Olson are getting sued by 50 of their former unpaid interns. If you have an unpaid intern read this article and make sure you are complying with the law. They link to a concise document that has the six points you need to make sure you can check off to stay compliant. HINT: Make sure you are actually providing a thriving educational environment for that individual.

I have been blown away by Vince Staples ever since I heard him about a year ago on the podcast Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. At the time he was only 20, but the way he spoke about his music, his life, his future was that of someone who had lived fifty+ years. I recently heard another 90 minute interview with him on Microphone Check and it was pretty prolific. Minute twenty-five and on, is where it gets really good. He is currently my favorite artist to track. VINCE STAPLES: "MY JOB IS TO KEEP MY SANITY." 

I am a sucker for music that gets political or tells a story. Have you heard of Mexican Narcocorridos? It is a fascinating revival of a traditional type of song (corridos) that currently is used to narrate the stories of famed drug gangs and their henchmen. They do not necessarily glorify them or the lifestyle, but instead are a safe way to discuss such a volatile issue that can often be dangerous just to question. Most recently, narcocorridos have told the story of El Chapo, Mexico's most notorious drug kingpin, who one again espaced from maximum security prison. Who knew the line, "Well combed-hair, and through the bath the man escaped again" could have a harsh political bite that subtly criticizes the government. 



diy: using an altered version of journey mapping to figure out how your ngo can better work with the private sector.

I just returned from Guatemala where I was leading a workshop aimed at providing employees of an NGO the tools and skills to better engage with the private sector. As part of that training we included an altered version of a human centered design activity called journey mapping.

Journey mapping is a tool that can help companies gain empathy and insight into the experience of an individual who is using their product or service. What is important to note is that you are systematically mapping out the detailed process to pinpoint gaps, challenges, and opportunities within that customer’s experience. These are the moments for innovation.

For example-- as you will see in the video below from Stanford’s d.school-- if you are mapping out the experience of someone who is getting coffee, you do not start the map the moment they start drinking the coffee; you start the map the moment the person decides they want to drink coffee. 


In this case, we wanted to use it to help us identify opportunities where the private sector and the NGO could team together to maximize the impact of their participants. Most importantly, we were identifying these opportunities from the perspective of the participant rather than the NGO or the company.

Why is that important? Because you are ensuring in the long-run that you are creating opportunities that are relevant to the participants and not simply relevant to your indicators and outputs. 

Below is a step-by-step guide of the altered activity:  

1.     Create a profile for your participant. What is their name? How many kids do they have? Are they the head of the household? What is their daily income; and any other relevant details. The more detail, the better you are able to build empathy with the participant who is navigating one of your programs.

2.     Decide what this participant is trying to achieve (their objectives) that is also relevant to your program. For example, if you are working with small-scale farmers, maybe their objective is to figure out how to bring in more income because there was a major drought this year and they were not able to produce as much output as expected. This could also be connected to your program because you are trying to figure out how to raise the standard of living of these farmers and their families. NOTE: You are identifying the goals and desires of the participant not the objectives of your program.

3.     Map the experience of the participant trying to achieve this objective while going through your program. Write out these steps on post it notes (use the same color of post it notes) so you can easily move them around and modify as you move through the map. NOTE: Do not start the map the moment they begin to interact with your organization, start the map the moment they decide they need to achieve their intended goal. What happened beforehand that they decided they should start working with you? End the map past the closing date of your program or when funds are finished. Continue to map out the experience of the participant a few steps after they leave your program.

4.     Pinpoint moments throughout the map where they already interact with the private sector. Identify these moments with Post-it notes from a different color than step three.

5.     Identify positive, negative, and “make it or break it” moments in that participants journey. Again, use Post-it notes to identify these points.

6.     Step back, review the map and all the opportunities, and begin to brainstorm ways that the private sector could enhance the positive points and support those negative and "make it our break it" moments. 

The above activity is just one of many that you can use to achieve the same insight. This is also an activity that can build off other activities, which allows you to dig in deeper and specifically identify relevant companies and the specific support you are seeking that goes beyond asking for funding. 

What do you think? Does this seem useful? Does it make sense? Anyone done something similar?

I would love to hear your feedback.


empathy in development: morality verse empathy

I asked my brilliant friend Stevie Dunning to contribute to the ongoing conversation concerning empathy and our work as international development professionals. This guest post is part of an ongoing series exploring the new buzzword (empathy). You can learn more about Stevie below and the series here.


I worked at an international criminal tribunal following my master’s program in 2012/3. For months prior, I meticulously analyzed the effects of various transitional justice mechanisms on reconciliation – eyeing how various spaces, states or “communal groups” balanced their own experience with that of their “hostile neighbors.” Ultimately, this was entrenched in the notion that humans are concerned with, or have a great respect for, tenets of morality.

I leaned on empathy when it came to identifying, or even advocating on behalf of, policies/strategies [namely pedagogy and history curricula] I believed crucial to reconciling one’s identity with one’s trauma, including with one’s perpetrators. I came to understand, and even believe, that such spatial “restorations” required “feeling into” (the German translation of Einfühlung [empathy]) the perspective or reality of another.

Before each judgment, it was primarily a mini-circus of journalists perched on their editorial agendas, along with some practitioners or dignitaries; and for “bigger” cases, victims and family members. Typically, it was fairly underwhelming – likely on account of the conflict having occurred over twenty years ago. However, in terms of attendance, I think it was 60/40 split between those waiting to see “international justice” stumble and “one’s” perpetrators behind bars. Additionally, numerous employees at the Tribunal were from the Balkans, and many lived through the war. Present realities, relationships, and effects – what was pulsing within and without the Tribunal – were not given the same respect as the past. It was tough going for empathy.

For “high-ranking” acquittals, I noticed that some victims would repeatedly return to the same courtrooms for different trials, answer the same questions, see the same blank expressions from defendants, and hear the same responses from judges. I always wanted to ask, “Do you feel released? Understood? Safer? Vindicated?” I obviously could never understand their experience, and had nothing aside from the assumptions I conjured from academia, and during my brief time in Serbia and at the Tribunal.

There was this one woman who had been coming to testify at the Tribunal for years. After one particular high-level official was given a life sentence, she ran up to his wife and children after the judgment, and with venom cursed the wife. In short and via translation, she told his wife that she would never remove her black dress; she wished her to die in it.

I wondered if this moment would stick with this woman, if she would wrap it around herself in a moment of sorrow, confusion, or anger. I also wondered how it would remain with the convicted man’s family. Will it be a story that passes between great grandchildren after too many drinks at dinner? One of shame? A forgettable memory in the face of so many others? Whatever the answer, it ultimately revealed that the past, present, and future of both parties will remain severed and traumatized.

This moment startled me not only for its hostility and pain, but also because I saw the resignation, and almost expectation, from my own colleagues who were from the region. On this particular day, a Bosnian colleague in my department wore an “anarchy” T-Shirt, which prompted me to speak with a few second-generation colleagues [those who didn’t grow up in the Balkans] who were rumored to be leaving. Their reasons were split between fear [that people from their community would discover they worked at the Tribunal] and disgust. Disgust became an important identifier for me, because it helped me place those “moral gut reactions” – in this case, in response to a conviction or acquittal. There was not always an easy “answer” to one’s disgust – it simply felt wrong, immoral, or unsatisfying. There was a lot of feeling evoked, but it wasn’t connected to any one else’s. 

I saw that no court of law, or international view on morality, could enable one to “feel into” another’s experience, because its function was based on definitively ruling one party to be wrong and one to be right. It created hierarchies in everything: victimization; morality; and now, feeling. How could an institution ranking the human experience feasibly interact with, let alone facilitate, empathy for those involved? Each identity was bound to the same emotional response – “We feared.” – but there was no moral connection to the motivations or reactions.

Ultimately, this shows a staunch divide between morality and empathy; or rather a significant barrier to overcome in the face of addressing and accounting for (universal) wrongs (e.g. rape, genocide, ethnic cleansing). If empathy is indeed what makes us human, what can be practically facilitated in international relations, development, or in our basic interactions, is the notion that the lives of others have the same value as our own, and those within our “immediate” community. This experience prompted my view that it isboth more realistic and imperative to connect feelings and experience before developing or relying on a standard gauge or reflection of morality.

Stevie Dunning is a freelance writer/editor with an MA in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies, King's College London, and works within the executive office at The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, DC. Her main focus is transitional justice, diasporas and ethno-national identities. You can follow her on Twitter @steviEDUnning_

world urban forum: crowdsourcing a workshop focused on participatory design

I just returned from Medellin where the 7th United Nations World Urban Forum (WUF) was being hosted. I was there with American Planning Association, and in partnership with Architecture For Humanity Bogota Chapter, Fundacion Juligon, and CTS-EMBARQ we were tasked with hosting a panel on innovative methodologies for community participation. I wont get into details about the conference or the city of eternal spring (which, by the way, has every reason to claim that title), but I wanted to quickly share how we crowdsourced our panel turned workshop. 

Before the forum actually took place our team had a few calls where we all agreed that we did not want to host your traditional type of panel. Meaning, we did not want a panel where the panelists end up talking at you, rather than involving you in the discussion. We wanted something a little more dynamic and where participants would learn by doing. We weren't too sure how that would look like, but we knew it would include leading the participants through various participatory design activities/tools all of us have directly used with communities.

A few days before the panel we had conference goers answer this above question,” What are the community participation challenges in your project?”  

We reviewed all the answers and saw five major themes. 


5 themes

 We designed our workshop based off these responses.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 1.02.44 PM.png

The result—a dynamic workshop where participants left with tangible tools that they could directly implement in their projects and the communities with which they collaborate. 


february videos that are good conversation starters.

Below are a few videos from February that I keep going back to for inspiration, have forwarded to others, and/or have provided some good conversation starters.

The Samaritans

The Office meets a small NGO (Aid for Aid) in Kenya. The "Acronym" episode hits a little too close to home. 

This Is What Everyday Sexism Feels Like... to a Man

This starts off humorous and turns dark (read, real) in the most subtle of ways. 

Ira Glass on Storytelling

"Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish someone would have told this to me, is that all of us who do creative work... we get into it because we have good taste. But there is a gap, that the first couple years you are making stuff, what you're making isn't so good...."

Great lesson in creativity and forming your craft from one of the world's best storytellers. If you want even more poignant and helpful advice from Ira check out the full four part interview on YouTube. I was most shocked by the part where he critiqued his own newscast eight years into his career. 

Happy viewing!



reggie black: remove the fear


Though social media can be overwhelming at times, I am so thankful for the opportunity it provides to connect to audacious* individuals like Reggie Black. Everyday Reggie takes to Instagram to write a simple message on a sticky note; messages like, "Communicating your expectations is much better than cheating yourself," and "Ignore temporary defeat. Always remember who you are and what you are made of." He then leaves these sticky notes in random places around the city, hoping whoever comes across it will be pushed and inspired to live a much more fulfilling life. From the several comments he receives on Instagram it is evident that these little acts of kindness are doing exactly that. This creative endeavor of his is called Sticky Inspiration.

Reggie and I took a walk around H Street NE to talk about Sticky Inspiration, creative confidence, and living fearlessly. You can find the recording below. 

Reggie is hosting a Kickstarter right now to support "Remove The Fear: Creative Experience." He and a few friends will take a fully functional family residence in Washington DC, and in less than 30 days (with your help) will strip it down, and completely transform the house from a residence to a 30 Hour pop-up creative experience and art exhibit. They already have the house they just need your support to get the materials needed! 

Thank you Reggie for your time, your knowledge, and your overall positive perspective on life. I am so excited for you and all the amazing things you are bound to do! 

You can find Reggie at @iamreggieblack. 



*Though I don't get into it here, Reggie is a man who truly has not let anything hold him back. He has done and continues to do whatever it takes to stay true to his passions and what he wants to get out of life. Some might call him a risk-taker, I call him audacious. 

a roadtrip through southern mexico.

"Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.


Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road."

Song of the Open Road//Walt Whitman


If you were to look up the word content in the Katalina Mayorga Life Dictionary, the open road would certainly be cited. There is something so satisfying about a long stretch of paved (sometimes unpaved; i.e. the Pan-American) highway.  It had been some time since Sam and I had hopped in a car for fun, so we decided to end 2013 with a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula of Southern Mexico. We arrived at Cancun International Airport at 6:30 and we were on the Mexico 180 by 7:30. Of course, no road trip would be a road trip without its hiccups. Ours happened to have many-- particularly on this first stretch-- that included bribing, hawking of goods that were worth parting with, and a frantic scramble for an ATM. However, any memory of those slight annoyances immediately fell to the wayside as soon as we stepped into our stunning AirBnB.

Our house was a perfect blend of modern minimalism that paid reverence to the colonial foundation it was built on.

The pool

The pool

Day 2: Touring Merida.

I was obviously enamored with Merida's brightly textured walls.

Day 3: We wanted to hit the road early to get to the Il Kil cenote. Unfortunately (which later turned out to be fortunately), Sam and I found ourselves in the same predicament we were in on Day 1 of the trip—we did not have enough money for an unexpected toll. A few swear words later; we were again on the hunt for a functioning ATM. We were directed towards the town of Izamal.

What we didn’t know about Izamal is how breathtaking it is. How had we not heard about it? Every building, bank, market, standing wall was painted this deep marigold yellow. It was a sea of yellow and an ancient Franciscan convent was the main attraction.

Franciscan convent built in 1554.

After a few hours of exploration we got back on the road and headed to Il Kil, a freshwater sinkhole outside the town of Piste. Il Kil has been on my bucket list ever since I saw it on one of those National Geographic World Wonders (or something like that) slideshow

Yup it was stunning and worth the drive. And please excuse my frantic breathing.  I know how to tread water, I promise!! And it is not that hard. I played water polo for Christ’s sake, so I don't know what my deal is. :)

Day 4: Tulum. This was our second time in Tulum, and every time I struggle to explain why Tulum is such a special and unique little beach town. I feel like I am never doing it justice. Cue pictures….


Swimming with Sea Turtles in Akumel Bay.


The best massages at the serene Coqui Coqui.

Kayaking/swimming through Casa Cenote

Kayaking/swimming through Casa Cenote

And for good measure, some extra goods...

Favorite place to eat: Las Ranitas and the larger than your head proportions at Camellos.

Favorite place to do yoga: Hotel Maya 


women communicating the everyday battles of a relationship through soccer metaphors.

The Spanish Magazine, Líbero, just came out with a brilliant marketing series, Si te lo explican con fútbol (If they explain it through soccer..); women communicating the everyday battles of a relationship through soccer metaphors. So good! 

If you do not speak Spanish, I think you can appreciate the magazine and clean design across the board.


See the whole series here

home feature in refinery29


Refinery29 visited our Washington DC rowhome about a month ago. We bought this house in February of 2013 and have been doing most of the renovations ourselves. Though it has been a lot of work, it has been rewarding, and we were honored that they wanted to feature it on their website. You can see more pictures here and learn about carrying out a renovation on a pretty tight budget. Hint- DIY tutorials and Craigslist save searches.  


how to help typhoon haiyan victims

tacloban (photo by the AP)

Words, pictures... nothing can really express the utter devastation Typhoon Haiyan has caused the people of the Phillipines. These are the moments I feel helpless and have to ask myself if anything will ever change when these horrific disasters and its consequences are really a reflection of a global calamity happening at the highest levels of bureaucracy. Climate change is moving forward at full force with a trajectory of epic proportions that our governments and Fortune 500's are not doing close to enough to stem. What is even worse is that those that are the most vulnerable in our world are those that are the hardest hit. They did the least to contribute to climate change, but somehow are left to heed the brunt of the burden when it comes to unsustainable "economic growth."

Despite feeling helpless there is always something one can do. Check out this Huffington Post article for a full list of ways to support relief efforts. If you are eager to donate now you can quickly text the word "aid" to 27722 and you will be donating $10 to the World Food Programme.